Betting Big on Brooklyn, Netflix Opens First New York Studio

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In its quest to build the world’s first global TV service, Netflix Inc. has set up production facilities in Madrid, Seoul, Toronto and London. This fall, it will roll one out a little closer to home.

In September, Netflix will be opening a new studio in Bushwick, a neighborhood of about 100,000 people in Brooklyn, New York. The 170,000-square-foot facility includes six sound stages, as well as editing suites, meeting rooms and a commissary. The sound stages have enough space to film two TV shows at the same time, or one blockbuster movie.

The number of projects produced in New York has more than doubled since 2015 thanks, in part, to a state tax incentive program that allocates $420 million a year in giveaways to attract productions. By opening a studio in Bushwick, Netflix is giving a big vote of confidence in New York as a production hub.

Anne del Castillo, the commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, was one of a handful of local government officials and film industry professionals who toured Netflix’s new facility on a sweltering day in late June.

“This is really important for New York,” said Del Castillo. “It’s not just a nice to have. It’s a real economic driver.”

Netflix has pledged to spend more than $100 million in the city and to create thousands of jobs. In 2019, the company leased two facilities in New York: a 100,000-square-foot office in Manhattan and the Brooklyn production space. The company has spent the past couple of years working with owner Steel Equities to retrofit the latter. Netflix will start by filming two shows there, the titles of which the company declined to disclose.

The state has pledged $4 million in tax credits over the next 10 years, contingent upon Netflix creating and retaining at least 127 jobs at the Manhattan offices by 2025.

The opening of the studio in Bushwick is also a sign of the broader return to normal for the entertainment industry. New York was home to more than 70 different TV shows before things ground to a halt last year amid Covid-19 restrictions. Recently, the number of shows being produced has rebounded to the same levels as before the pandemic.

“It’s such a critical time for industry to say, ‘We’re here, and we’re back,’” said Michael Manas, who oversees the facility for Netflix.

Manas stressed that Netflix’s investment in Bushwick would extend far beyond the space itself. The company, he said, would be hiring local workers for its productions and for its wood shop. Netflix will also be ordering food from local restaurants.  

Betting Big on Brooklyn, Netflix Opens First New York Studio

“This really is a neighborhood project,” Manas said.

Politicians continue to debate the economic benefits of using tax incentive programs to stimulate production. Georgia, New Mexico, Michigan and Canada have all offered millions of dollars to lure top Hollywood projects. The strategy has been so effective that California, long the hub of U.S. production, has had to implement credits of its own.

The new Netflix studio sits on land that was previously a steel shop and is down the street from an industrial electrical supplier, an iron works company and a granite provider — vestiges of Bushwick’s industrial past. Initially settled by the Dutch West India Company, the neighborhood eventually became home to sugar, oil and chemical factories.  With time, the Dutch gave way to an influx of Germans, who opened up breweries and established Bushwick as the beer capital of the northeastern U.S. 

During the second half of the 20th Century, the average income of a Bushwick resident lagged behind the city average, and the crime rate was high. It wasn’t a popular destination for the film industry. 

More recently, Bushwick has grown into one of the most exciting gastronomic hotspots in New York. The Netflix studio is down the street from a popular ramen restaurant, and a couple blocks away from Roberta’s, one of the best-reviewed pizza joints in New York.

Years ago, Venus Anderson grew up in Staten Island and would visit Bushwick as a member of her high school debate team. Afterwards, she and her classmates would typically try to get out of Bushwick as quickly as possible. She’s now the program director for Made in NY Production Assistant Training Program.

In June, she took part in Netflix’s tour of its new studio. “To see Hollywood here is something we never would have dreamed of 20 years ago,” she said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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